Good Friday is upon us. As some have already noted, it came early to Notre Dame Cathedral. Since the fire on Monday over 600M euros have been pledged to rebuild the iconic structure. This great outpouring of support was initially hailed by the masses on social media, but now pushback has begun. Some are questioning why people are so quick to respond to a tragedy involving a building, yet so slow to respond to human tragedy. I think the two points of view on this may come down to our understanding of easter and the gospel.
For me one of the key moments in the easter story happens in Matthew 27:50-51: ” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open.” What does this mean ?
Well, it obviously means a lot of things, but here is how I see it. The veil separating God and man was taken down. Some have understood this to mean that we now have open access into the holy, which to true. But I think it also means the holy has open access into us. God was saying: “My Spirit will not be contained. I am coming for you.” It is the Spirit’s coming out party, if you will. This is confirmed later in Acts when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people. And wherever the Spirit is, there is life. The tombs opened. Crucifixion precedes resurrection. A little later in Acts God indwells His people through the Holy Spirit. This is the surprising and scandalous part that no one was expecting… ” Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Pauls calls it “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generation.” (Col 1:26) Put another way, God is biased towards relationship and away from religion. He wants to be intimately close, not impressively distant. God favours children over cathedrals. He likes testimonies more than temples. He would rather dwell in human hearts than the grandest structure in the world. You get my point. Apparently it’s been about people the whole time.
So there are no longer holy places, just holy faces. I am not saying that a space cannot have a spiritual atmosphere, but that has nothing to do with architecture. That has to do with the spiritual history of what God has done there in human hearts. Those things can linger. Architecture can make us feel things, but that is psychology, not theology. We should not mistake what we feel as evidence of the Spirit. I know people who get goosebumps when they walk into a hockey area or a baseball stadium. Nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t intrinsically spiritual.
For sure Notre Dame is a compelling building; “however the Most High does not live in temples made with human hands.” (Acts 7:48) The Most High chooses to live in temples made by his own hands… Us. We are his Notre Dame! That is what makes good friday so good. He tore the curtain of his flesh and came for us. He resurrected and can resurrect what is dead in us. That is why no matter how far we have fallen, we can get back up. Our indentured servitude to death is over. We can put on our freedom clothes and walk out of our sin-created tombs. The is what the message of holy week is all about.
Undoubtedly Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt, and there will be debate over whether the money was spent wisely. That is all well and good. But the truth is, God cares much more about rebuilding us. So as you move through holy week, let the meaning of holy week move through you. Let the Holy Spirit do some renovating and rebuilding in you this Easter.